I read recently that the most common word in the English-speaking world is no, with okay as a runner-up. But what about the most commonly used word in the world – English-speaking or not?
Words such as radio, bank, café, chocolate and beer are understood in many countries even though they may have their own word but taxi is the word used by natives themselves. Apart from English-speaking countries there are at least 30 that use taxi, probably many more.
Taxi is an abbreviation of taxicab and this in turn is an abbreviation of taximeter cabriolet.
Taximeter is from Latin taxare ‘appraise’ and Greek metron ‘measure’, because of the automatic meter that records the distance and fare.
Cabriolet is a French name for a covered, horse-drawn carriage with two wheels. The French named it after the Italian capriola, which in turn came from capri, a he-goat, as the lightness of the carriage reminded Italians of the lightness of goats leaping along the rugged hills of Capri.
And here’s the coincidence for me… my favourite ever taxi ride happened in Capri, last September, from the ferry terminal up to Anacapri at the top.
Sitting in the back of a white luxury convertible – the Capri taxis are part of the island’s tradition – makes the occasion feel very special, being driven up winding roads with an amazing and constantly changing view. That is one experience I will always remember.